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New Study: One Katrina-Like Storm Surge Every Other Year

2013/03/21

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), a storm surge is an “abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tide”. (See image below)

Graphic representation of a storm surge.  Image: chathamemergency.org

Graphic representation of a storm surge. Image: chathamemergency.org

In other words, the wind of a storm pushes the sea at a higher level than the normal tide.  The result is flooding of coastal areas which can cause not only incredible damage coastal homes and infrastructure, but also great loss of life.  Still fresh in the collective memory of North Americans are the storm surges associated with Hurricane Sandy (2012) and Hurricane Katrina (2005).

Flooding in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy.  Photo: Scott Anema.

Flooding in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy. Photo: Scott Anema.

Horrific damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.  Photo: katrinadestruction.com

Horrific damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Photo: katrinadestruction.com

According to a group of researchers from the Neils Bohr Institute (NBI), extreme storm surges like the one caused by Hurricane Katrina, are set to dramatically increase in the years to come.

Graphic representation of the results from the Neils Bohr Institute study.

Graphic representation of the results from the Neils Bohr Institute study.

The scientists from the NBI used data from monitoring stations along the coast of Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic coast of the US to predict the frequency of hurricane storm surges into the next 100 years.  Their results led to the conclusion that if warming of the planet reaches 2 degrees Celsius above pre industrial temperatures, we would see 10-fold increase in the number of Katrina-like storm surges.  Put in different units of measurement, this translates into one Katrina-like storm surge every other year.

Unfortunately, the situation becomes even worse when you consider that sea levels will also be rising as temperatures continue to rise.  This means that the starting point of any storm surge will be higher, resulting in greater flooding and greater destruction.

Every day that we delay, we reduce the odds of limiting warming to 2 degrees.  Every day that we delay, we increase the chances that this is in our future.  So what the hell are we waiting for?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2013/03/21 11:49 am

    Reblogged this on Utopian Dreaming and commented:
    A very well-written article outlining a very sobering report. We simply cannot wait any longer to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Climate change will become a runaway train too soon if we continue to place the abstract “economy” above the material and social needs of the planet.

  2. 2013/04/09 5:48 pm

    Reblogged this on A Little Bit Greener and commented:
    Having lived just outside of New Orleans, and viewed the still-remaining damage from “The Storm” (as it’s known in that area), the idea of this just horrifies me. Why can’t people see that this is only going to get worse if we don’t start doing something now?

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